Having blamed Dr Andrew Wakefield for the current measles outbreak, the media and health officials telegraphed their intention last Sunday to blame him for the first UK death from measles for some years eg. First death feared in MMR scare The Sunday Times By Mark Hookham 14 April 2013.
And now today just a short while ago the first suspected death is being reported: Death of 25-year-old man being investigated as part of South Wales measles outbreak: Daily Mail 11:10, 19 April 2013 Rachel Reilly.
It is not known whether the man did have measles or died from it nor whether he had been vaccinated. An omission from early reports today is why anyone suspects a measles infection. Nothing is said which is somewhat odd.
This man would have been around 18 months old when the MMR vaccine was introduced so could well have been vaccinated then. But it is not so easy to blame Dr Wakefield. The suspected but unconfirmed measles victim would also have been 10 years old when Dr Wakefield came on the scene in 1998. A post-mortem is expected to be carried out later to confirm the cause of death, according to police and public health officials say the news reports.
This situation has occurred despite UK vaccination rates being at an all time high and despite the majority of measles cases being in the 1 to 5 age group as confirmed in Parliament by Lord Howe.
If this man has died as a result of measles then the people clearly blameworthy are Dr David Salisbury and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. Ever since 1998 they purposefully and intentionally took away the sensible option of allowing those parents who did not trust the MMR vaccine or government assurances to have access to a single measles vaccine.
With MMR vaccination rates claimed to be at well over 90% and approaching 95%, there is a small minority of less than 10% not availing themselves of the MMR vaccine. So if there are parents who did not then and now still do not trust Dr Salisbury and the JCVI over the MMR vaccine – and they have good reasons not to – they are a minority who have been deprived of single measles vaccines since 1998 when Dr Salisbury and the JCVI oversaw the withdrawal of the option of single vaccines then.
So to get the coverage up higher would only take having an option of a single measles vaccine for between 3% and 5% of the remainder. That could easily have been achieved across the entire EU but instead health officials did nothing about it – leaving those parents and their children with nothing.
It was government saying to parents its “our way or the highway” – which is a dangerous precedent politically to set over any aspect of healthcare. No choice and no freedom.
But a policy of choice would see higher combined rates of uptake with those few families taking the single measles vaccine. The long sought and repeatedly W.H.O. postponed nirvana for public health policy of the eradication of measles in the UK could have been achieved a decade ago if not for Professor Salisbury and his JCVI. This post would not be being written now.
It is clearly nonsense to blame Dr Wakefield for something which has solely been within the control of Dr Salisbury and the JCVI for a decade and a half. Dr Wakefield did not decide to withdraw the vaccine – Dr Salisbury and others did, so they must accept responsibility for their own decisions and stop trying to scapegoat others. They have sat back complaining about vaccination uptake for 14 years with the sensible option available to them throughout.
And politically, what is the role of the state in public health matters affecting individual children and their families? At what point is the State justified in intervening? Should parents have the right to decide wisely or not on matters affecting the health of their children. Should the state override and intervene and if so, when and to what degree? Can the state be trusted to? Or more to the point, can those officials entrusted with the task be?
Or should the State facilitate by offering choice in a matter so important that choice could be the only and best sensible approach – common sense prevailing.
Health officials and the media were hedging their bets in trying recently to pin a feared death on Dr Wakefield last weekend. There have been 76,000 reported cases of measles in the UK since 1992 but only two deaths since then from acute measles and none in healthy children:
Prior to 2006, the last death from acute measles was in 1992.”
“In 2006 there was one measles death in a 13 years old male who had an underlying lung condition and was taking immunosuppressive drugs. Another death in 2008 was also due to acute measles in unvaccinated child with congenital immunodeficiency whose condition did not require treatment with immunoglobulin. ”
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